Family Recipe Friday: Boom’s Instant Jubilee Sauce

Today is Family Recipe Friday in the genealogy blogging world, which brings to mind a simple, elegant recipe from my maternal grandmother.

My mom’s mother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence was fairly modern as grandmothers went. Just 45 when I was born, her lifetime spanned most of the 20th Century. She came of age and married in the Roaring Twenties and was still pretty active when I hit my teens in the Sixties.

Boom's recipe box.
My maternal grandmother’s recipe box. Boom was an artist who taught Early American Tole Painting. She hand painted her tin recipe box in a style that reflected her German-American heritage. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Unlike my friends’ grandmothers, who appeared more traditional in their sensible house dresses, my grandmother was tall, trim and stylish — a clothes horse from a young age who would not be caught dead without a coordinated outfit, jewelry and every hair in place.

We all called her Boom — from my childhood mispronunciation of Grandma as Booma — and the family nickname seemed to capture her outgoing, no-nonsense personality.

An elegant shortcut

In her early years, when she was raising her daughters (my mom Peggy and my aunt Rita), Boom probably did a fair amount of old-style cooking from scratch — because she always turned out fantastic family meals for the holidays.

But by the time I came along, she was all about shortcuts and time-saving recipes. Boom was an early adopter of Jell-O, which made its way to the table in a variety of flavors as both a dessert and a salad. And she was always on the lookout — in newspapers, magazines and from friends and family — for quicker ways to make the old standbys.

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Instant Jubilee Sauce recipe handwritten by my grandmother. This simple, elegant recipe still works today, producing a sauce just as impressive as its more complicated counterparts. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Enter Boom’s hand-written recipe for Instant Jubilee Sauce, which I found tucked away in her carefully painted recipe box (she was also an artist who taught Early American Tole Painting.)

Did she copy it from a printed recipe? From a cookbook? Or was it dictated by a friend or relative? I have no way of knowing. But typical of my grandmother’s style, the recipe is as simple as it is elegant, and I decided to make it for the holidays last year.

A ruby red holiday treat

The key to to the recipe’s success is finding just the right cherry preserves — dark, sweet and jewel-colored — so the finished sauce is a deep, ruby red when it cascades down the vanilla ice cream over which it is served.

I tried it out at my annual trim-a-tree party in December, to the oohs and aahs of my gathered guests. With plenty of port still on hand, I made another batch and brought it to a neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party.

“I hope you didn’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen cooking this sauce,” she said, apologizing for the late notice about her impromptu get together.

I had to smile. This was just the sort of comment my grandmother would have loved to hear about a shortcut recipe that could not be distinguished from its more complicated counterparts.

And preparing and serving Boom’s Instant Jubilee Sauce was a special treat for me — like having her along for the holidays one more time!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Sharing the legacy of childless relatives

As I research and write about my family history, I come across collateral relatives on both sides of my family — some single, some married — who had no children to pass on their legacy.

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Gloversville Business School (1900-1949). My great grand-aunt Rosie Curcio, a single career woman born in 1906, trained here and worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70. Photo: Front Page Gloversville

Far from being lonely without offspring, these relatives often led varied and interesting lives while maintaining ties with their families of origin.

During the 2016 A to Z blogging challenge, I wrote about several of them as a way of honoring and remembering their lives, since they have no descendants to take on the task.

Alas, that post received few visits. So here, again, are a few of these relatives who stand out — a couple of whom I have written about before.

Aunt Rita: bloodbank professional

My mother’s sister, Rita Mary Laurence, left New York State for southern California in 1955 for a job as a blood bank technician. She worked in San Diego and Los Angeles, created an independent life for herself far from family, and even met Albert Schweitzer’s daughter when she toured the lab where Aunt Rita worked.

Aunt Rosie: glove factory office worker

Another of my maternal relatives, Rose Curcio, was also a single career woman in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. She was my great grandaunt — a younger sister of my maternal great grandmother Mamie (Curcio) Laurence.

Born into a huge Italian-American family in 1906 — to parents who survived early married life in Manhattan’s notorious Five Points area — Aunt Rosie studied at the Gloversville Business School, then worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70.

Aunt Rosie helped support her family of origin during her working life — and gave money to her union family members when they were forced out on strike by the glove factory owners.

My mom and I interviewed Aunt Rosie in the early 1990s. Still sharp at 95, she shared what she knew about our common ancestors and painted a colorful picture of life in Gloversville’s Italian-American community. She remained close to her siblings and their families and lived to be 105.  There will be more on Aunt Rosie in future posts.

Uncle Fred: WW II veteran

And one holiday season I wrote about my uncle Frederic Mason Charboneau, one of my dad’s brothers, and his lively letters home during his U.S. Army service in WW II — to begin sharing his story since he and his wife had no children.

Who are the childless relatives in your family? What do you know about them? How did they interact with your direct ancestors? Their stories can provide a fuller picture of your ancestral background if you are willing to go look for them.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Gesundheit: A little linguistic legacy

If you are several generations removed from immigrant ancestors, you may find yourself longing — as I did — for some lingering evidence of a heritage connection within your own family.

Tissues. My family’s use of the word “gesundheit” when someone sneezed was likely passed down from my maternal German immigrant ancestors. By: Chris Costes

My advice is to pay careful attention, because — as I discovered with my maternal German ancestors — the evidence you seek might be found in the most unlikely place.

My German heritage comes from my maternal grandmother Elizabeth Christina Stoutner — who eloped with Anthony [Di Lorenzo] Laurence, the Italian-American boy next door in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

My mom — their oldest daughter — grew up near both my grandparents’ families, with many reminders of her ethnic roots.

Where were my ethnic clues?

But off my mom went to college. Then there was a career move, marriage to my dad, children and more moves — so by the time I was growing up in the suburbs of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., we were an assimilated, Baby Boom family living several hours’ drive from our nearest relatives.

I envied my friends who had closer ties to their immigrant heritage — as I enjoyed perogies and kolachkis with my Eastern European friend up the block or watched a school friend’s Italian grandmother lay handmade pasta to dry over the backs of her kitchen chairs.

Alas, there were few ethnic clues in the basic meat-and-potatoes dinner my family sat down to most evenings. But then someone would sneeze, and we would all say, “Gesundheit!” — and presto, there was my first heritage hint.

A healthful heritage hint

Gesundheit means “health” in German, but I never gave this much thought as a child. It was just something our family said. Not until at school, when I heard others say “bless you,” did I realize that not everyone said gesundheit.

Many years passed before I delved into why — and many more years still until I seriously researched my German heritage and made the connection to this salutation.

It turns out the word gesundheit arrived here with early German immigrants — like my ancestors, who came to these shores in the mid 1800s — then proliferated through the general population as German immigration picked up.

“Used to wish good health to a person who has just sneezed,” according to thefreedictionary.com, the word’s frequency of use over the decades is depicted by an online n-gram graph.

Who would have imagined that as my German-American ancestors sneezed down through the  generations, they would pass along the hearty response “Gesundheit!” as a little linguistic legacy from one generation to the next?

Or that their healthful German salutation would be passed from my immigrant Mimm, Stoutner, Albeitz and Edel great, great grandparents to their children, then to my maternal grandmother, my mom and me?

Such a small ancestral bequest — but one I am reminded of whenever I hear someone sneeze!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time